pz-21-logo


The 21. Panzer-Division was formed in Africa from 5. Leichte-Division in August 1941. It fought in North Africa suffering heavy losses at El Alamein and during the retreat to Tunisia when it was the rear guard. It was destroyed in Tunisia in May 1943.

It was reformed in Normandy on 15 July 1943 through the reorganization of Schnelle Brigade West. Initially equipped with obsolete French Hotchkiss and Somua tanks, the division received German PzKpfw IV tanks a few weeks before the Allies invaded Normandy. It also received an experienced cadre of personnel, including about 2,000 former members of the original 21. Panzer-Division destroyed in Africa.
The division departed in March 1944 to take part in Operation “Maragretha”, the military occupation of Hungary. However, its transfer was rescinded and the division returned to France.
The division remained in France on occupation duty until the Allied landings in Normandy when it was the only armored unit to attack on D-Day. After suffering heavy casualties defending Caen, the depleted division received much needed infantry reinforcements from the disbanded 16. Feld-Division (L) in August 1944. Largely destroyed at Falaise, the division withdrew to Lorraine where, after further hard fighting, it was replenished in October 1944 by absorbing the tanks and personnel of Panzer-Brigade 112. It fought in the Saarpfalz and took part in Operation “Nordwind” in January 1945. Transferred to eastern Germany, the division was destroyed by the Red Army in the Halbe pocket in April 1945.

Commanders

Generalmajor Johann von Ravenstein (1 Aug 1941 - 29 Nov 1941) (1)
Oberstleutnant Gustav-Georg Knabe (29 Nov 1941 - 30 Nov 1941) m.d.st.F.b.
Generalmajor Karl Böttcher (01 Dec 1941 - 18 Feb 1942)
Generalmajor Georg von Bismarck (19 Feb 1942 - 31 Mar 1942) m.d.st.F.b.
Generalmajor Georg von Bismarck (01 Apr 1942 - 31 Aug 1942) (2)
Generalmajor Heinz von Randow (01 Sept 1942 - 21 Dec 1942) (3)
Oberst Alfred Breur (21 Dec 1942 - 31 Dec 1942) m.d.F.b.
Oberst Hans-Georg Hildebrandt (01 Jan 1943 - 28 Feb 1943)
Generalmajor Hans-Georg Hildebrandt (01 Mar 1943 - 16 Mar 1943) (4)
Generalmajor Heinrich-Hermann von Hülsen (17 March 1943 - 13 May 1943) (5)
Reformed as 21. Pz.Div. (Neu)
Generalmajor Edgar Feuchtinger (15 July 1943 - 15 Jan 1944)
Generalmajor Oswin Grolig (10 Jan 1944 - 09 March 1944) m.d.st.F.b.
Generalleutnant Franz Westhoven (10 March 1944 - 08 May 1944)
Generalleutnant Edgar Feuchtinger (08 May 1944 - 23 Jan 1945)
Oberst Helmuth Zollenkopf (24 Jan 1945 - 11 Feb 1945) m.d.F.b.
Generalleutnant Werner Marcks (12 Feb 1945 - 08 May 1945)

Operations Officers (Ia)

Major Wolf-Rüdiger Hauser (1 Aug 1941 - 12 Sep 1941)
Major Hugo Freiherr von Süsskind-Schwendi (Sep 1941 - Jan 1942)
Major Friedrich-Wilhelm von Heuduck (Jan 1942 - Dec 1942)
Oberstleutnant Helmuth Strempel (10 Jan 1943 - Apr 1943)
[Reformed as 21. Pz.Div. (Neu)]
Oberstleutnant Wolf-Götz Freiherr von Berlichingen-Jagsthausen (15 July 1943 - 15 Sep 1944)
Major Gerhard Scharnhorst (15 Sep 1944 - 5 Jan 1945)
Major Wilhelm Renner (5 Jan 1945 - 20 Apr 1945)
Major Alfred Schwutke (20 Apr 1945 - 28 Apr 1945)

Area of operations

North Africa (Aug 1941 - May 1943)
France (July 1943 - Dec 1944)
Germany (Dec 1944 - Feb 1945)
Poland & eastern Germany (Feb 1945 - May 1945)

Holders of high awards (Aug 1941-May 1943)

Holders of the German Cross in Gold (40)
Holders of the Honor Roll Clasp of the Heer  (3)
- Kraus, Albert, 15.07.1942, Hauptmann, 11./Schtz.Rgt. 104 (mot)
- Pfeiffer, Hans, 18.04.1943, Oberstleutnant, Pz.Gren.Rgt. 104
- Schütte, Paul, 18.04.1943, Major, Pz.Gren.Rgt. 104
Holders of the Knight's Cross (11)
Holders of the Romanian Order of Michael the Brave, 3rd Class (Orden “Michael der Tapfere” III. Klasse)  (2)
- Beil, Hans, Königlichen Dekrets Nr. 2517 / 13.09.1943, Major, Art.Rgt. 155
- Pfeiffer, Heinz, Königlichen Dekrets Nr. 2517 / 13.09.1943, Major, Pz.Jäg.Abt. 39

Holders of high awards (July 1943-April/May 1945)

Holders of the Commendation Certificate of the Commander-in-Chief of the Army (2)
- Gottberg von, Wilhelm, 05.03.1945 (5588), Hauptmann, I./Pz.Rgt. 22
- Hanig, Georg, 05.12.1944 (4733), Oberfeldwebel, Sanitäter, 1./Pz.Pi.Btl. 220
Holders of the Commendation Certificate of the Commander-in-Chief of the Army for Shooting Down Aircraft (1)
- Brass, Helmut, 06.06.1944 [Date of Action] (557), Obergefreiter, 8./Pz.Gren.Rgt. 125
Holders of the German Cross in Gold (17)
Holders of the Honor Roll Clasp of the Heer (5)
- Boscolo, Anton, 15.12.1944, Obergrenadier, 6./Pz.Gren.Rgt. 192
- Burger, Willi, 05.03.1945, Oberleutnant, 7./Pz.Gren.Rgt. 192
- Roth, Richard, 25.07.1944, Hauptmann, Pz.Gren.Rgt. 125
- Skubowius, Jurt, 05.03.1945, Hauptmann, 9./Pz.Gren.Rgt. 192
- Zimmermann, Hermann, 05.02.1945, Unteroffizier, 6./Pz.Gren.Rgt. 125
Holders of the Knight's Cross (13)

Order of battle (November 1941)

HQ
- 200. Mapping Detachment (mot)
- 200. Communication Section (mot)
- 200. Construction Section
5. Panzer Regiment
- HQ
-- HQ Company
-- Light Armored Platoon
-- Regimental Band
-  Maintenance Company
- 2 x Battalion
-- HQ Company
-- Light Armored Platoon
-- Medium Armored Company
-- 3 x Light Armrored Company
104. Schützen Regiment
- HQ Company (mot)
-- Signals Platoon (mot)
-- Motorcycle Platoon
-- Panzerjäger Platoon
-- Regimental Band
- 2. Machine Gun Battalion
-- HQ Company (mot)
--- 2 x Motorcycle Platoon
-- 3 x Company
-- Support Company
--- Panzerjäger Platoon
--- Mortar Platoon
-- Support Company
--- Pioneer Platoon
--- 2 x Panzerjäger Platoon
--- Mortar Platoon
- 8. Machine Gun Battalion
-- HQ Company (mot)
--- 2 x Motorcycle Platoon
--- Signals Platoon
-- 3 x Company
-- Support Company
--- Panzerjäger Platoon
--- Mortar Platoon
-- Support Company
--- Pioneer Platoon
--- 2 x Panzerjäger Platoon
--- Mortar Platoon
-- Panzerjäger Company
155. Artillery Regiment
- 3 x Battalion
-- HQ Company (mot)
-- 3 x Battery (mot)
3. Reconnaissance Battalion
- Signals Platoon
- Light Supply Column (mot)
- Armored Car Company
- Motorcycle Company
- Support Company
-- Pioneer Platoon
-- Panzerjäger Platoon
-- Infantry Support Platoon
200. Feldersatz Battalion
- 4 x Company
200. Pioneer Battalion
- 3 x Company
200. Signals Battalion
- Radio Company
- Signals Company
- Light Supply Column (mot)
39. Panzerjäger Battalion
- Signals Platoon (mot)
- 3 x Company (mot)
Supply Troops

Order of battle (March 1944)

Staff
- Staff
- 200. Mapping Detachment (mot)
- Divisional Band
100. Panzer Regiment (6)
- Staff
- Signals Platoon
- Staff Panzer Platoon
- Battalion
-- Staff
--- Staff
--- Staff Company
--- Flak Company (self propelled)
-- 4 x Panzer Company
- Battalion
-- Staff
--- Staff
--- Staff Company
-- 4 x Panzer Company
-- Maintenance Company
125. Panzergrenadier Regiment
- Staff
- Staff Company
-- Signals Platoon
-- Panzerjäger Platoon
-- Pioneer Platoon
-- Motorcycle Platoon
- Infantry Gun Company (self propelled)
- Nebelwerfer Company (half-track)
- Battalion (half-track)
-- 3 x Company (half-track)
-- Heavy Company (half-track)
--- Panzerjäger Platoon
--- Flak Platoon
-- -- Panzerzerstörer Section
- Battalion (mot)
-- 3 x Company (mot)
-- Heavy Company (half-track)
--- Panzerjäger Platoon
--- Flak Platoon
-- -- Panzerzerstörer Section
200. Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion
- 3 x Company (half-track)
- Armored Car Company
-- Platoon
-- Detachment
200. Sturmgeschütz Battalion
- Staff
- Staff Battery
- 4 x Company
200. Panzerjäger Battalion
- 2 x Company
155. Panzer Artillery Regiment
- Staff
- Staff Battery
- Battalion
-- Staff
-- Staff Battery
-- 3 x Battery (mot)
- 2 x Battalion
-- Staff
-- Staff Battery
-- 3 x Battery (self propelled)
305. Army Flak Battalion
- Staff
- Staff Battery (mot)
- 3 x Battery (half-track)
- Searchlight Battery
200. Feldersatz Battalion
- 4 x Company
220. Panzer Pioneer Battalion
- Staf
- Pioneer Company (half-track)
- Panzerzerstörer Company (mot)
- Brüko K Bridging Column
200. Panzer Signals Battalion
- Telephone Company
- Radio Company
- Light Supply Column
Supply Troops

Notable members

Günther Halm (Anti-tank gunner credited with 9+ destroyed tanks in North Africa)
Hermann von Oppeln-Bronikowski (Gold medal winner in the team dressage event in the 1936 Olympics)

In fiction

One of the main characters in the 1958 movie "Ice Cold in Alex" directed by J. Lee Thompson serves with the 21. Panzer-Division.


SdKfz 251/6 of 21. Panzer-Division in Africa
pzdiv-21-sdkfz251-africa
(Courtesy of John)

Motorcycle of 21. Panzer-Division in Africa
pzdiv-21-motorcycle
(Courtesy of John)

Erwin Rommel visiting the 21. Panzer-Division in France May 1944
pzdiv-21-france-rommel-marder1
(Courtesy of Bundesarchiv/Wikimedia, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Germany)

Two soldiers from 21. Panzer-Division wearing camo in France 1944
pzdiv-21-france-binoculars
(Courtesy of Bundesarchiv/Wikimedia, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Germany)

Footnotes

1. GM Johann von Ravenstein is taken prisoner.
2. GM Georg von Bismarck is killed near Ragil Egypt by British mortar fire.
3. GM Heinz von Randow killed near Tripoli Libya by a mine laid by the British Long Range Desert Group.
4. GM Hans-Georg Hildebrandt goes on sick leave.
5. GM Heinrich-Hermann von Hülsen becomes a POW when Armeegruppe Afrika surrenders.
6. 100. Panzer Regiment was redesignated Panzer-Regiment 22 on 20 May 1944.

Sources used

Microfilm Publication A-3356, German Officer Personnel files, NARA
RKT & DKiGT karteikarten, BA/MA
Dermot Bradley, Karl-Friedrich Hildebrand, Markus Rövekamp - Die Generale des Heeres 1921-1945
François de Lannoy & Josef Charita - Panzertruppen: German armored troops 1935-1945
Chris Ellis - 21st Panzer Division: Rommel's Africa Korps Spearhead
David C. Isby (editor) – Fighting the Invasion: The German Army at D-Day
Wolf Keilig - Die Generale des Heeres
Andris Kursietis - Die Wehrmacht at War 1939-1945
French Maclean - Quiet Flows the Rhine: German General Officer Casualties in World War II
Kurt Mehner - Die Deutsche Wehrmacht 1939-1945: Führung und Truppe
Samuel W. Mitcham Jr - The Panzer Legions: A guide to the German Army Tank Divisions of WWII and Their Commanders
George F. Nafziger - The Afrika Korps: An organizational history 1941-1943
Peter Schmitz, Klaus-Jürgen Thies, Günter Wegmann & Christian Zweng - Die deutschen Divisionen 1939-1945 (4 Vol)
Georg Tessin - Verbände und Truppen der deutschen Wehrmacht 1933-1945
Günther Wegmann - Die Ritterkreuzträger der Deutschen Wehrmacht, Teil VIII a: Panzertruppe, Band 1
Günter Wegmann & Christian Zweng - Formationsgeschichte u. Stellenbesetzung der deutschen Streitkräfte, 1815-1990, Teile IV, Abt. 1:  Die Dienststellen, Kommandobehörden u. Truppenteile des Heeres, Oct.35-May.45
Gordon Williamson - German Army Elite Units, 1939-45

Reference material on this unit

Heinz-Dietrich Aberger - Die 5. (lei.)/21. Panzer-Division in Nordafrika
Chris Ellis - 21st Panzer Division: Rommel's Africa Korps Spearhead
Werner Kortenhaus - 21. Panzerdivision 1943-1945
Jean-Claude Perrigault - 21 Panzer Division: Normandy, Tarnopol, Arnhem

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